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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 18 | Diciembre 1982



“The Silent war Against Nicaragua: Strategy of terror”

NEWS AND ANALYSIS UPDATE FROM NOVEMBER 5 TO DECEMBER 5, 1982 The militarist foreign policy of the Reagan administration has been ratified, and the perspectives for Nicaragua within the general framework of the region are complex and replete with difficulties.

Envío team


Over the last month several events have confirmed earlier tendencies which continue to be a cause of concern. The ratification of Reagan’s warlike foreign policy makes Nicaragua’s position within the Central American region complex and fraught with difficulties.

Several days ago the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) confirmed the installation in Europe of Pershing and Cruise missiles aimed at the Soviet Union. This represents a victory in Europe for U.S. foreign policy and underscores the fundamental role being played at present by Reagan’s new ally, West Germany’s Chancellor Kohl. In a trip to the United States, Christian Democrat Kohl characterized West Germany as a “loyal ally of this country” and emphasized the importance of NATO not only in military but also in political terms. His statements had rapid consequences: official sources announced that the Kohl Administration would resume diplomatic relations and economic aid to El Salvador.

During November, Christian Democratic groups form West Germany and the United States held a conference in Bonn, financed by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. In accordance with their vision of Central America, the conferees expressed harsh criticism of those who support “leftist” governments in the region (read: Nicaragua).

Severely affected by its own economic crisis, Europe today seems an undynamic continent where the worldview is within the framework of an East-West conflict. The Kohl government, which has adopted the U.S. line, not only has the political and military initiative but is more hard line than the European Social Democratic positions. The current German view of Central American problems does not benefit Nicaraguan or other struggling peoples of the area.

In keeping with the same bellicose posture, the Reagan Administration is going ahead with its decision to place MX missiles near Cheyenne, Wyoming. Although Congress has not yet approved the plan and may give Reagan serious opposition, the mere fact that the decision was made is indicative of the aggressive attitude which prevails in official circles.

Each of the one hundred missiles will carry ten nuclear warheads of enormous power. The new missiles are slated to cost no less than $26 billion (some sources say as much as $40 billion).

1 MX missile is nearly equivalent to the budget for the Caribbean Basin Initiative
100 MX missiles 3 times the total foreign debt of all Central American countries.
100 MX missiles 52 times the total amount of Nicaragua’s exports
100 MX missiles 2,600 times Nicaragua’s education budget

More terrible than the economic significance for a world in crisis and for a continent impoverished and hungry, these weapons possess an enormous capacity for destruction. Despite this, Reagan Administration officials characterize the MX as an instrument of persuasion vis-à-vis the Soviet Union and have even called it an “instrument of peace”. U.S. Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger stated that the MX missile is a deterrent that will force the Soviet Union to negotiate strategic arms reduction.

The decisions to install missiles both in Europe and the United States have been made despite protests by important sectors of public opinion on both continents. The draft letter by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops which circulated several weeks ago harshly condemns nuclear war. In Bonn, there was a demonstration recently by 100,000 students to protest that scholarships were being eliminated while NATO installs new missiles. Both protests signal significant opposition which is ignored by the Reagan Administration.

Why should these bellicose activities concern us in Central America and Nicaragua so deeply? Our concern stems in part from the unforeseeable consequences of this policy for all of humanity. But we also ask, in case of an escalated military intervention in Central America, to what extent would public opinion be taken into account? Like the massacre against the Palestinians in Beirut, the current defeat for the anti-nuclear groups once again demonstrates the enormous power of militarism. It warns us that, at the moment of a direct or more open intervention by the U.S. in Central America, protests against intervention might not make a difference. Those who are pushing the MX and Pershing missiles are the same power centers who refuse to concede to smaller nations the right of self-determination.

However, the event which undoubtedly has had the greatest impact in Central America and in all of Latin America this month is President Reagan’s visit, from November 30 through December 5, to Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Honduras. In addition, in Costa Rica, Reagan received President Magaña of El Salvador and in Honduras held talks with Guatemala’s General Rios Montt. Thus, on his trip he met with six Latin American heads-of-state.

There seem to have been two basic objectives to Reagan’s visit. The first, in Brazil and Colombia, was to reestablish political dominance over an area that, though historically favorable to the United States, has become problematic in the wake of the Falklands conflict. Although Colombia aligned itself with the U.S. during that conflict (earning itself the title “the Cain of Latin America”), with the advent of the Betancour government it began to voice harsh criticisms of the tattered inter-American system. Colombia has even been promoting a new continental organization which would include Cuba. Brazil is locked in a severe economic conflict with the United States, which removes it as the principal U.S. ally in the Southern Cone. Public statements by both countries indicate that Reagan’s trip did not achieve positive results. This is not only because he was unable to respond favorably to the economic demands which the two nations presented, but because both Brazil and Colombia are continuing to hold to their position of respecting self-determination by Central American peoples.

Reagan’s Costa Rican and Honduran visits had a different purpose. Here he came to visit countries whose governments are totally aligned with his foreign policy. He came to ratify in situ the policy of isolating Nicaragua as the first stage of a broader strategy of overthrowing the Sandinista revolution. Secretary of State Schultz declared, “This visit is to support democracy in the Central American countries… We are not anti-Nicaragua, rather we are for democratic states.” One could debate the meaning of the word “democratic” applied to regimes such as those in El Salvador and Guatemala, but what is pertinent is the consistency in the Reagan Administration’s characterization of Nicaragua. From the Santa Fe document to the present, this characterization has not changed. In addition, the dependence of these four Central American leaders on the policies dictated by Washington is so great that Reagan’s presence undoubtedly served to consolidate the policy of isolation against Nicaragua.

The tremendous security apparatus that accompanied Reagan’s visit reinforced the image of the colonial power visiting its colonies.

• During the seven hours Reagan was in Colombia a special force of more than 4,000 men and no less than 150 U.S. security agents was mobilized. The only public places he visited (Plaza Bolívar and the Palacio Nariño) were converted into “zones of military occupation”.
• In Costa Rica, Reagan’s security detail was composed of 3,000 persons, 1,500 of them Americans. The hotel where he stayed, the Cariari, was declared “American territory” for 48 hours.
• In Honduras, he arrived at a military base in San Pedro Sula from which he did not emerge. A similar plan of security was repeated, which had a cost of more than half a million dollars for the visit, which only lasted a few hours.
• Throughout his visit Reagan was protected by a triple cordon of security. At no time did he have any contact with the people in the countries he was visiting. Nevertheless his visit gave rise to a series of expressions of repudiation and protest. These ranged from signs painted on walls in all the cities visited, to demonstrations which left one dead and several wounded in Honduras, to the gesture by one-third of the Costa Rican legislature which refused to turn out to receive him.

In summary the visit signified:
1- A concrete expression of the Reagan Administration’s overall policy of looking for military solutions in the region.
2- A disregard for all the peacemaking initiatives and efforts in favor of dialogue in the area. Reagan made no mention of the FMLN-FDR initiative and visited neither Venezuela, México, nor Nicaragua, thus responding negatively to the proposals for a Nicaraguan-Honduran dialogue.
3- A ratification of the regional commitments made at the “Forum for Peace and Democracy” held some months ago in Costa Rica, which excluded Nicaragua.
4- A confirmation of a Central American alliance to isolate, destabilize and attack Nicaragua.
5- An approval for the El Salvador government, which was promised certification of its human rights “advances” so that it can continue to receive aid.
6- Similar approval of the Guatemalan government to whom Reagan promised the resumption of military aid.

(Later in the U.S., White House spokespersons would not confirm the last two commitments, which were widely publicized during Reagan’s visit in the region).


On Tuesday, November 30, the Latin American Federation of Journalists, headquartered in México, presented to the press a video-cassette containing statements by Hector Frances, an ex-agent of Argentine intelligence assigned for the last two years to the coordination of anti-Sandinista counter-revolutionary groups in Central America. During that period, Frances lived in different countries in Central America, receiving instructions from a member of the Argentine General Staff in Honduras, which participated in directing the Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary forces in the area.

The video-cassette, lasting nearly an hour, contains an enormous quantity of information, including precise details on the counter-revolutionaries’ operational capabilities, their mode of functioning, levels of organization and co-ordination with advisors from Argentina and from the Honduran Armed Forces, their relations with high level Costa Rican officials, etc. Although some of this information was known previously, its precision, along with certain new elements, make it valuable for understanding the current Central American situation. As Frances himself expressed, “The veracity of my statement is based on my presence and direct participation in the events themselves, and on my relations with the people directing these activities, either during my stay in Costa Rica, or in Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador or Honduras”.

What was an ex-Argentine intelligence official doing in Central America? The presence of Argentine advisors operating as intermediaries for Reagan policy in the region has been systematically denounced for nearly two years. They have been described as shoring up the dictatorships of El Salvador and Guatemala as well as the governments of Costa Rica and Honduras in their struggles against the grassroots movements and against the Nicaraguan revolution.

In Frances’ words, “It would not be possible with U.S. money alone to mount these aggressive campaigns, were it not for the formulation and orchestration by various military sectors of theories such as that of ideological borders… This theory, expounded by certain Argentine military men, is implemented by sending men and equipment from the army and intelligence services to other countries with the aim of consolidating similar ideological perspectives… The theory seeks to combat all groups hostile to those repressive systems of government, to which end one tries to establish solid bases for that kind of system… and tries to deprive revolutionary movements of the strategic depth and necessary platforms that they need in order to spread the revolutionary current to South America.”

Utilizing existing counter-revolutionary groups in Honduras and Costa Rica (groups which receive official support from the governments and armed forces of those countries), the plan seeks to destabilize Nicaragua, create a liberated zone in the northern part of the country, and install a government in exile which would rapidly receive international support from the United States, El Salvador, Honduras and Argentina. The availability of U.S. help has been foreseen by the Halcon Vista maneuvers.


The Role of the U.S.: This growth (of the Contra) is due to the contribution of an extraordinary sum of money by the United States… which provides the setting up of various camps, the arming of thousand of men, as well as their provisions, salaries and other forms of economic assistance to those leading the counter-revolution, plus the salaries of the Argentine paramilitary advisors who, as in my case, collect sums ranging from $2,500 to $3,000 monthly.

The Role of Honduras: Honduras also has a fundamental role to play in all this… It offers its territory for the counter-revolution. It contributes material from its armed forces, and its army participates in multiple support tasks (for example, Argentine advisors receive credentials from the Special Force for Public Security, an organ of brutal repression)…. It offers the counter-revolution a strategic operational base.

The Role of Costa Rica: Costa Rica has an importance equal to or perhaps even greater than that of Honduras, in the sense that the many and varied forces that make the counter-revolutionary policies converge there… The Israeli ambassador offered Dr. Antonio Morgan, technical-legal advisor to the Local Committee of the FDN in Costa Rica, passports from his country so that those without documents could travel freely in Honduras.

These individuals Toruño and Pineda (two Somocista ex-National Guardsmen mentioned earlier) have already carried out operations such as that perpetrated against the border post at Peñas Blancas while others, including one against a border post at Cárdenas, in the town of the same name, are in preparation.

(Note: the day after these statements were published in Managua the attack by a counter-revolutionary group was carried out against Cárdenas).

Characterization of Edén Pastora: I met in Costa Rica with another significant figure of the counter-revolution, namely Commander Edén Pastora Gómez. I found a man who had abandoned his previous revolutionary mystique only to become deeply immersed in a different mystique, that of money and power… That mystique prevented him, at any point during our meeting, from presenting a clear and coherent point of view which would have allowed us to reach a conclusion as to whether he could unite with or work in tandem with the Nicaraguan Democratic Forces, as we intended… Pastora did not define himself clearly. Nevertheless the CIA, accustomed to playing several cards at the same time, and in spite of the fact that it already supports a certain individual around whom it aims to group all of the counter-revolutionaries in Honduras, also supports Commander Edén Pastora in Costa Rica.

This support is nothing new, for in 1979 Commander Edén Pastora was already informing the U.S. State department about the direction the Nicaraguan revolution was taking, information which he furnished when he realized that he was not going to be guaranteed the share of power within the revolutionary process which he thought he deserved. And this is not merely my interpretation, but rather the product of his own statements and his acknowledgement of this before Colonel Oswaldo Rivero in Washington. The CIA is supporting Pastora not only through the advice and instructions which he receives through his tie with Arturo Cruz who is constantly traveling between Washington and Costa Rica, but he also receives an important flow of money…

Support for Pastora is also due to the fact that he offers the CIA an invaluable service, which is the division which he continues to provoke within the Socialist International.

Pastora’s posture, his lack of definition and simultaneous delays in planning political activities, have given rise in several of our meetings to the suggestion, not without some inspiration from the U.S. State Department, of the possibility of physically eliminating him. The theory is that he would be of greater usefulness in that way…


To complete our regional analysis, begun in the previous section, we present several new developments which impact upon the current situation.

The situation in El Salvador continues to be deeply affected by the military offensive which was initiated in October and which is still going on. Although there have been temporary tactical retreats in the province of Chalatenango, the guerrilla forces continue to control territory totaling 1800 sq. km. in the northeastern part of the country. In the last few weeks sectors of the department of La Unión, consisting of the towns of Anamoros, Lislique, Porolos, Nueva Esparta and the Cantón of Monteca, have been incorporated into guerrilla-held territory.

During this time, a letter signed by the five FMLN commanders was distributed at various military bases calling upon the young soldiers to abandon their war against the Salvadoran people.

On December 2, General García, presently the Salvadoran strongman, met with Lieutenant General John McEnery, Director of the Inter-American Defense Council, and with Admiral Sayre Swartzbrauber, President of the Inter-American Defense College. At a press conference the two U.S. officials declared that the arms traffic into the country had to be counteracted by the Salvadoran army with the help of other American nations. García stated, “In the next few days decisive actions will be undertaken.”

It appears that the army is unable to coordinate an effective response in the face of the FMLN’s military advance. Nevertheless, indications are that it will soon attempt a large-scale counteroffensive.

At the same time, a serious political crisis continues to shake the country. On November 3, a Central Elections Council was set up, in charge of organizing and supervising 1983 elections. It has representation from the five political parties which are members of the Constituent Assembly (the Council previously had only three members). Although this development might be interpreted as advancing the “national unity” being pushed by the government, in reality certain political events demonstrate the opposite. Serious divisions were evident in the parliamentary discussion which set up this Council and in the discussion of the FDR-FMLN proposal for dialogue. The latter could give rise to a new center-right alliance which would be called the “Democratic Center” and which would weaken the Apaneca Pact and sharpen the open crisis among the political parties. The alliance would, in turn, take shape around an acceptance of the FDR-FMLN proposal, which has been rejected by ARENA (D’Abuisson) and by El Salvador’s private enterprise sectors.

Least month’s situation demonstrated an increase in the polarization of forces – a continuing offensive by the FMLN which has not, however, led to a dialogue, and deep divisions among the political forces of the right. The government’s attempt to change its foreign image through the creation of an official Human Rights Commission is an attempt at cosmetic reform. Struggles within the army continued and the role of García as the country’s strongman has been consolidated with the help of the U.S., which appears determined to increase the counterinsurgency effort. Without a doubt, this attitude runs the enormous risk of Vietnamizing the conflict with the ever more open participation of Honduran troops and increased U.S. aid.

In Guatemala, the policy of “Rifles and Beans” (frijoles y fusiles) continues to be implemented with corresponding repression and misery for the peasant and Indian majority. In addition to combating the guerrilla movement, the armed forces have taken charge of concentrating the peasant population in refugee camps, called strategic hamlets. A so-called Committee of National Reconstruction has been given the corollary task of pushing forward with development programs, the “beans” side of the policy, which basically consist of equipping the peasants with inadequate tools with which to rebuild villages and reestablish production.

Although Rios Montt has not stopped the guerrilla movement, it has suffered a number of setbacks during the last month. At the same time that Rios Montt’s policy of repression has been consolidated, the government has refurbished certain instruments of ideological domination. On November 28, a giant religious mobilization was effected, which brought together more than 150,000 persons to commemorate the centennial of Protestantism in the country. Rios Montt was one of the principals invited to this gathering, in his role as a member of a fundamentalist church.

The decision announced during Reagan’s Central American trip to resume aid to Guatemala and to support “the transition to democracy” which is supposedly in progress there demonstrates that in the administration’s view, the Rios Montt card continues to be viable, despite four attempted coups in the last few months.

Within Guatemala, the latest economic measures adopted by the government have sparked discontent among middle-level productive sectors, small merchants and consumers.

Like El Salvador, Guatemala continues to be a problem area in U.S. strategy in Central America. The cost of Rios Montt’s military control is high, and together with the grave economic situation, increases discontent and creates weakness in terms of U.S. political hegemony. As in El Salvador, where on November 23 a large meeting of evangelical groups was also held, military power in Guatemala finds in religious fanaticism and ideological prop with which to consolidate itself by proclaiming the “divine” character of its origin and the evanescence of this “earthly existence”.


The prevailing fact of life in Nicaragua continues to be the daily and repeated aggression which the country is suffering, especially on its northern border. Recent attacks against Cárdenas on the border with Costa Rica opened a new front of aggression and concern for the Nicaraguan people.

Between November 14 and 20 alone, approximately ten Nicaraguans, the majority members of the Sandinista Armed Forces, were killed and twenty campesinos were kidnapped and taken to the counterrevolutionary camps in Honduras. Shortly before these events took place, in early November, 42 other campesinos working on different haciendas in the northern border region of San José de los Mangos, were kidnapped on successive days. Eleven subsequently managed to escape. These incidents gave rise to expressions of repudiation and condemnation among various sectors of the population, especially by the mass organizations and Christian Base Communities. On November 22, another attack against the population of Yumpalí left six Sandinista soldiers dead. Several days later, in the Murra area, three Ministry of the Interior soldiers were killed in action. These are only some examples indicating the increased scale of the aggression, which has created an atmosphere of fear in the border area. That atmosphere does not always coincide with the climate in Managua and other more protected areas where people view the aggressions as real but nevertheless somewhat distant from their daily lives.

The counterrevolutionary units responsible for these attacks are composed primarily of Somocista ex-National Guardsmen who are attempting to recover the privileges they once enjoyed and to return to the situation which existed before July 19, 1979. They are not mercenaries in the classic sense of the term, i.e., foreigners contracted to fight against another country for money. Rather they are Nicaraguans who are motivated by the loss of personal interests which they intend to reconquer. At the country’s other extreme, on the Atlantic Coast, something similar is happening with the Miskitos, who are fighting for demands which have been manipulated in ways which we attempt to explain in a separate article of this Envío. These are important considerations when examining the nature of the defensive struggle which the Sandinistas must wage.

In the economic area, the first direct shipment of Nicaraguan bananas to the American market, after Standard Fruit broke its contract, has been an important development. This issue is also treated in a separate article.

The president of the Nicaraguan Central Bank traveled to the U.S. for a meeting of the governors of the Inter-American Development Bank. Neither that meeting nor his subsequent meeting with private American bankers to seek loans necessary for Nicaragua’s economic recovery have led to any clear resolutions to date. There has been no official statement on the outcome of the visits. The head of the Nicaraguan International Fund for Reconstruction (FIR) made a successful trip to various countries in Latin America, arranging lines of credit for more than $45 million and laying the base for others which may exceed $70 million.

In light of the systematic refusal of the center of world economic power to come to the aid of poor countries, Nicaragua’s economic aid continues to come principally from third world countries.

In this same vein, the election of the president of Nicaragua’s Central Bank as head of the Central American Monetary Council is also significant. When the time came to define economic projects and guidelines, countries which differ sharply with Nicaragua ideologically, proposed its candidacy. Although this may seem contradictory, the explanation is simple. The tremendous crisis which the region is suffering affects all of the countries. The origin of the crisis, as well as the responsibility to face up to it, are the same for all parties involved. Thus what can be disguised and manipulated in the political-ideological sphere and diverted along lines such as a potentially fratricidal Honduran-Nicaraguan conflict, is impossible to manipulate in the economic area. Moreover, Nicaraguan is admired and recognized for refusing to be subjugated, even by those who in other areas oppose it.

Coincident with the resumption of discussion on the Law of Political Parties, the FPR (the alliance of Nicaraguan pro-government forces) published a communiqué committing itself to present a single unified proposal, which is important in terms of National Unity. That unity was further strengthened by a meeting on November 28 to form a National Construction Industry Union. On that occasion, Comandante Víctor Tirado López once again reiterated the decision of the FSLN to hold elections in 1985.

By contrast, deep divisions have appeared among the ranks of opposition unions. The Nicaraguan Workers Central (CTN) has split into two groups which are fighting to gain representation of the few workers who remain affiliated to the organization. A schism, coming just when the union was losing membership, may call into question its ability to survive.

The closing of the Third Session of the Nicaraguan Council of State signifies an advance in the work of that legislative body. The 52 laws approved represent only a part of the labors realized, which have consolidated the standing of the legislative structure both domestically and internationally.
A fresh polemic between Church and State has been opened by the publication in the Nicaraguan press of a news item which appeared in the Washington Post the beginning of December. According to the article, church sources reportedly stated to the Nicaraguan government that Pope John Paul II will not visit Nicaragua in 1983 unless five Nicaraguan priests resign from the public offices. The news is of particular concern in light of the fact that the Nicaraguan government issued an official invitation to the Pope.

Palpable evidence of the freedom that religion enjoys in Nicaragua was the large-scale religious celebration on November 28 to consecrate Nicaragua to the Virgin Mary. This celebration took place on a massive scale in all the dioceses of the country and culminated with an open-air mass in which the bishops of Managua and the Atlantic Coast participated along with more than 60 priests, from all sectors of the church, and more than 20,000 faithful.

Nicaragua has lived this last month in step with the pace of external aggression. Although the internal situation continues to be favorable to the FSLN, the ever more pronounced internalization (entry into and time spent within Nicaragua) of the counterrevolutionary forces tends to exhaust the nation’s human and material resources. How long the country will have to suffer this aggression and to what extent it will affect the process of reconstruction are questions which are on everyone’s minds.

At the very moment that Reagan was visiting Honduras, an important commission of the Socialist International confirmed in situ the attacks being perpetrated against Nicaragua. This expression of support and solidarity on the part of the SI is a sign of hope to Nicaragua in the midst of a critical situation.

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“The Silent war Against Nicaragua: Strategy of terror”

The Situation Of Banana Production In Nicaragua

Miskitos in Honduras and Nicaragua:A Divided People a Manipulated Banner?
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